Kate Miles (aka fluttrgrl) has combined her incredible photography with beautiful words to produce a superb Explorer Challenge – read on and let her take you with her to the wilderness of Coolah Tops National Park:

My pop used to head to Coolah for weekend adventures when I was a kid. He’d head off in his camper to meet his mates and they would camp and talk and drink and do whatever else a bunch of old blokes do when they get together. So when I was invited away to Coolah Tops National Park for a winter long weekend 4WD and camping adventure, there was no way I could say no!

Coolah Tops is a plateau situated at the confluence of the Great Divide, Liverpool and Warrumbungle ranges, about 470km North West of Sydney. The area is dominated by huge eucalypts and wildlife abounds. It is home a great number of curious kangaroos and wallabies, as well as wombats, possums and gliders, as well as Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos, Powerful Owls and Wedge-Tailed Eagles.

So we set off from Sydney along the “scenic route”. Being a long weekend, we opted for the lesser travelled Old Pacific Highway out of Sydney, before linking up with the Golden Highway. It was unseasonably warm the day we set off, and the views across the sunburned landscape made you glad to be alive.

coolah tops camping

We arrived in the late afternoon at Bracken Hut campground in Coolah Tops NP (you can actually hire and sleep in the hut if you’re not keen on tent camping in the middle of winter). Those of us with tents to pitch set about doing that, while everyone else went to gather enough firewood to keep us warm for the six or so hours we planned to sit by the fire that night in sub-zero temperatures.

As the sun set and our red wine chilled in the cold air, I set about taking advantage of the two hour window between sunset and moonrise to get in some astrophotography practice. The air was cold and the skies were completely clear and there was no light pollution to speak of – absolutely perfect conditions for star viewing. It made me wish we’d had room in our Landrover to bring the telescope!

coolah tops camping

The following morning I awoke at sunrise to a heavy frost. The temperatures had been well into negative digits and as I left the tent my head hit the heavy weight of the annex. Condensation had gathered overnight and had frozen solid! That morning the sunrise was the most golden colour I can recall seeing. Beams of light pierced the fog, bouncing off the blanket of frost that surrounded us.

coolah tops camping

After a good 90 minutes to myself to explore, everyone else started to arise and the smell of bacon and eggs permeated our camp. We had planned to take our 4WDs up some fire trails, but were disappointed to find out from a local ranger that the trail to the opposite end of the plateau was closed due to a washed out bridge, as well as an enormous tree that had fallen across the track in a recent storm. No mind, there were still many other little tracks and walks to do before retiring to camp in time to observe another stunning sunset.

coolah tops camping

That night, once dinner, marshmallows and a good few bottles of red had been consumed, I again parted to revel in the incredible starlit sky above me. I realised that we must have been under the Sydney/Brisbane flightpath as there were lots of moving lights far away, overhead. As I laid on my back amongst the kangaroo, rabbit and wombat poo, feeling the stars close in around me, I was lucky to spy a few shooting stars (yeah I know, it might have just been space junk entering the atmosphere, but I prefer to think they were shooting stars!).

coolah tops camping

After a marginally warmer night’s sleep, we were up early to get on the road to begin our meander back to Sydney. The sun was warm and the chill soon gave way to a day that was certifiably balmy. With the windows of our Landy wound down, it made for a beautiful and relaxing drive home (for a long weekend!).